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Saltmarsh restoration under way at Inlet Reserve

August 24th, 2011
[by David Armstrong]

New work is quietly underway to restore the margins of the wetlands area beside the Inlet Walkway and Adopt-a-Plot area with native plantings, in an effort to take the saltmarsh area back to its pre-dump state.

As a committee member of Keep Motueka Beautiful (KMB), Mike Tooker has taken the responsibility of researching, raising funds and organising volunteers to plant the area on the edge of the tidal inlet with saltmarsh plants which can handle the exposed, salty environment.

Mike saw the need for this work as the area so brilliantly restored by KMB from a rubbish and sawdust dump into a predominantly native reserve, extended ever closer to the actual inlet. The Inlet Walkway and Adopt-a-Plot project has become so successful that the original number of plots made and 'adopted out' has increased significantly, taking the restoration work toward the old raupo and bullrush patches.

"Some bits were still intact, and some were eroded around the edges, so we thought we could at least patch up the margins," Mike says. The defining edge is the raised walkway, with the saltmarshes between that path and the planted plots. Mike persuaded the committee to apply for funds for the repair work and some initial planting.

With $2000 donated by Network Tasman, the work began after Easter this year and about 800 plants have now been put in so far. "We've held a bit back until we see the results after a winter of frosts and seeing what plants can handle the saline conditions. It's a bit experimental seeing if we have the right plants in the right places. Often the only way to tell is to plant something and see the results."

The majority of plants so far are four types of rushes, manuka, ngaio, ribbonwood and ake ake. Mike used his contacts in the 50+ Walking Group to gather about 15 volunteers who have helped at plantings, which they found was a rather slow process.

Mike says old man gorse endemic in the raupo is a big issue, and they are working on strategies probably involving some spraying. Another issue has been the large silver birch trees on the site. They are not natives, but many are in fact an element of the 20th century history of the area so it has been decided that some of them will remain.

KMB has now secured more funding - almost double that for last year - from the Lion Foundation, so the next task is to plan the further restoration and development. Mike has actually 'adopted' the saltmarshes as a plot in its own right.

"I think it's fair to say that there are still many people (in Motueka) who don't value saltmarshes, and find it a bit quaint that we would restore them by doing nothing apart from keeping the weeds out," Mike says. "Some raupo is now recovering, and the goal is to control the gorse and bramble using knapsack sprays and try not to hit anything else, then plant clumps and use trees to provide quick shade to discourage gorse."


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